Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Enough is Enough

Artists: Beekeeper; Ida; K.
Albums: Beekeeper; Ten Small Paces, Insound Tour Support No. 11, Will You Find Me (Ida); K./Low split
Source: Promos (Beekeeper, Ten Small Paces, K./Low); Bought new (Insound, Will You Find Me)

It's not enough to just like a band or a record. If you're serious about this stuff - and lordy knows I'm not the only one who is (far too?) serious here - then liking something is just the first step on a long, usually (over)complicated journey.

Take Ida. In 1997, they put out an album called Ten Small Paces. I didn't know much about the band, but boy oh boy did I like this record. I loved it, played it daily for a while and tried to turn everyone on to it who came within earshot. It hit me in all the right places: beauty tempered by ragged edges, lilting songwriting balanced with smart covers (from a wide pool, in which swam Eno, Neil Young, Bill Monroe and the Secret Stars), a sound that was sexy and safe and private and extroverted and smooth and rough.

That should be enough. You take that CD, you've got 15 songs in a little under an hour, solid and wonderful and unlikely to wear out its welcome. Fantastic, right?

But it's not enough. I need to know more. So I research. I write reviews. I edge my way into being assigned interviews. I go to the shows. I track down limited singles pressed into handmade packaging. And the side projects...did I almost forget the side projects? Some of my favorite songs on Ten Small Paces, specifically "Fallen Arrow" and "Poor Dumb Bird," are written not by Ida's central Dan Littleton/Liz Mitchell axis, but by bassist Karla Schickele. Turns out she's got her own project, K. (she tells me in an interview that it is essential to include the period, every time), as well as a band with her brother, Beekeeper. So that becomes part of it, too.

So now that record I liked, one near-perfect little disc, is a small cottage industry of acquisition and trivia and listening and collecting. Of course, the totally not-funny funny part is that all of this stuff is pretty good, but there's nothing in the pile I like quite as much as TSP. Even the other Ida things I've picked up, while perfectly good, don't hit me quite like the one that started it all in the first place.

But somehow it's all that other stuff that gives the original item context. "This is the one I bought after." "This is the one by the bass player who wrote 'Fallen Arrow.'" "This is the one you can't find anymore." TSP serves as the unmoving center, but in the end it's kind of the only piece; with the exception of an occasional spin through Will You Find Me, it's the only one I really feel any motivation to listen to. But I'd argue that I hear it even better because of the small constellation of satellite objects orbiting the mothership, that somehow going so far beyond just liking the record made my love for it all the more complete.

SISOSIG? As much as I enjoyed digging around in the larger universe suggested by that first Ida disc, the cold hard truth is that neither Beekeeper nor K. really do all that much for me. There's something about Ida, and not just the band's component parts, that is pretty wonderful. I'd never consider ditching Ten Small Paces, and the other Ida discs are pretty nice, too (plus at least an album's worth of 7" vinyl floating around the apartment). But I don't think Beekeeper and K. are really keepers...or even necessary anymore - I can enjoy Ida all on its own. [That said: I did once buy a CD of children's songs recorded by married Ida couple Dan & Liz...I can definitely imagine wanting to venture out into that end of the Ida universe someday!]

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